Thursday Champions League Multi - 14 February
Buckle in, this could be a cracker morning of Champions League action.
AJAX vs. Real Madrid
Resurgent Real Madrid is up to their old tricks. Santi Solari has finally got his side playing, with Los Blancos registering five straight La Liga victories heading into this – a run which includes mightily impressive victories over Sevilla, Real Betis and Atletico Madrid (their first defeat at the Wanda Metropolitano).
To make matters worse for Ajax, they have just one win in their last four Eredivisie matches – following a run of 15 victories in 17 – which includes a harrowing 6-2 defeat at the hands of Feyenoord; there is quite simply no worse time to lose form.
I was so impressed by Ajax in the group stages of the competition: a couple of draws with Bayern Munich were thoroughly deserved, while Real stumbled through their own group after losing to CSKA Moscow twice.
But this is a different Real Madrid side, and with the form, they’re showing, I simply can’t see Ajax getting anything from this – despite their excellent European form.
Therefore, my best bet for this match is for Real Madrid to win and over 2.5 goals to be scored. Two of Ajax’s three Champions League matches at home saw over 2.5 goals which, considering five of Real’s six matches also saw over two goals, is a nice omen for this tip.
Karim Benzema is bang in form, Solari’s men are playing with real confidence and poise, so don’t overlook another deep run in the competition for the champions.
Tottenham vs. Borussia Dortmund
Dortmund has had a brilliant season over in Germany, and sit five points clear of Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga. Lucien Favre’s men qualified for the Champions League knockout stages at a canter, topping their group over Atletico Madrid, Club Brugge and Monaco.
Spurs’ qualification was certainly more laborious – albeit from a much harder group – but you can’t begrudge the resilience they showed in reaching this stage.
Harry Kane and Dele Alli are of course still injured, though the news of Marco Reus’ absence will certainly come as a boost for Mauricio Pochettino. This said Dortmund have no shortage of attacking alternatives, primarily in the shape of Jadon Sancho, Paco Alcacer and Mario Gotze.
While Spurs haven’t drawn in the Premier League all season, that’s exactly the result I’m backing here. Dortmund’s away form has been very strong this season – losing only once domestically – while Poch’s boys have shown plenty of frailties at Wembley; recently relying on a number of scrappy late goals to claw their way out of trouble.
Recent meetings between Spurs and Dortmund have certainly been entertaining. The Londoners did the double over Dortmund in last season’s group stages, after Die Borussen dumped them out of the Europa League the previous year.
So, why am I backing a draw? Primarily because of how evenly matched these two sides look. Plenty has been rightly made of Dortmund’s excellent attack – which has seen them score 54 league goals in 21 – but only RB Leipzig and Borussia Monchengladbach have a better defence than the Bundesliga leaders this season.
Without Kane and Alli, I have my doubts as to whether Spurs have the cutting edge to put away a side as strong as Dortmund, and you’d feel it’s a result (particularly a score draw) that Favre would be delighted with.